Creativity, 3D Printing and the Law

The marketplace for handmade and unique items is expanding thanks to websites like Etsy, eBay, and Pinterest.  These sites allow crafty entrepreneurs to reach a large network of consumers at a very low cost.  The use of 3D printers is becoming increasingly popular and has the potential to expand the marketplace for handmade and unique items even further.  Previously only available to large-scale producers, 3D printers are becoming more economical and provide artists and entrepreneurs with another tool to create their work.

As some entrepreneurs have already figured out, 3D printing brings its own set of special legal challenges. One such entrepreneur is Fernando Sosa, who operates a custom 3-D printing business.  Sosa offers to make models, prototypes and replicas of new products on his website, nuPROTO.com.  Sosa also sells original items.  One original item in particular got Sosa into some trouble with cable network HBO.  Using a 3D printer, Sosa designed, produced, and sold a cellphone charging station in the form of a throne based on HBO’s popular series “Game of Thrones.”

Sosa received a cease-and-desist letter from HBO, requesting that he stop selling the item because it was the intellectual property of HBO and Sosa did not have a license to sell it.  Sosa, unable to acquire a license, has since had to issue refunds for the thrones already sold and discontinue the item on his website.

Sosa’s story is just one example of the challenges that accompany this new, exciting technology. Artists and entrepreneurs need to be vigilant to ensure their work is protected, if possible, and not infringing on any existing rights, licenses or laws.

Kali Lester, an attorney in our Livonia office, concentrates her practice on municipal law, utility law and appellate law.  She can be reached at (734) 261-2400 or klester@cmda-law.com.